Time Magazine on Monday wondered aloud, “Can NATO survive a Donald Trump presidency?” Millions of Americans hope that it can’t, at least not in its current state.
Time, referencing Trump’s campaign talk of cutting some U.S. aid to NATO, reported that European leaders are very worried about the president elect’s level of dedication to protecting their nations.
From the report:
On Sunday evening, after the leaders of Europe had spent the better part of a week trying to guess the scale of Donald Trump’s contempt for the NATO alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, its secretary general, offered the U.S. President-elect a reminder of what that alliance has cost.
He didn’t give the sum in terms of money – as Trump has so often tried to do – but in the lives of European soldiers, more than a 1,000 of whom have died fighting alongside U.S. forces in Afghanistan. As Stoltenberg wrote in the Observer on Remembrance Sunday: “Today of all days, we remember them.”
It was an oddly emotional statement from a man better known for bureaucratic platitudes, and it showed just how anxious the Europeans have become about the U.S. commitment to their defense.
On the campaign trail Trump was often critical of NATO allies who rely on U.S. military support but infrequently make efforts to “reasonably reimburse” the nation for its help.
The president elect sent the political and media establishments into frenzy over the summer when he offered that U.S. aid to NATO allies under a Trump administration would be contingent on whether they “fulfill their obligations to us.”
Pro-NATO Trump critics have since argued that U.S. failure to go along with treaty organization would threaten a dominance the West has enjoyed since the organization’s inception in 1949.
But when they talk about western dominance, what they really mean is U.S. world policing.
Consider the breakdown of U.S. spending on NATO compared to that of other member nations.
Here’s a helpful chart Defense One published earlier this year:
What that shows is that far more NATO countries are failing to contribute significantly to the organization than are surpassing contribution targets. The U.S., of course, is meeting nearly double its obligation at 3.6 percent of GDP.
And Greece, whose contribution as percentage of GDP was second highest (its economy remains in shambles), is increasingly friendly with Russia. Russia is currently NATO’s top boogeyman and Greece is increasingly being called a pawn in NATO-Russia relations.
In other words, when Trump talks about NATO having turned from an effective military deterrent to a bureaucratic money pit benefiting most heavily from U.S. military largess, he’s only stating the obvious.
U.S. military spending on NATO will top out at more than $60 billion in 2016.
It’s important to remember that Trump has not advocated for a U.S. withdrawal from NATO as some fear mongers are claiming. So our NATO-enabled bases aren’t going to be disappearing any time soon. He simply has said that the U.S. can’t afford to continue its level of contribution to NATO while it isn’t meeting economic obligations at home. His statements suggest that he may renegotiate with NATO allies.
Of course, for anyone who adheres to the constitutional notion that the U.S.’s sole obligation is protecting its citizens, a full NATO withdrawal would be fine too.
And if deescalation of tension with Russia is as much a goal for Trump as he’s made it seem, NATO certainly isn’t going to help considering its repeated aggression toward the nation.
Constitutional lawyer and author Bruce Fein recently made that point in calling for the U.S. to cut its NATO entanglements:
In leaving NATO, the United States would dramatically lessen tensions or conflicts with Russia and strengthen our security against external aggression. Among other things, the stage would be set for a new treaty to reduce the nuclear arsenals of the two countries. Russia would probably claim a sphere of influence over its neighbors, but that would be unalarming. The United States has acted in the same way for more than two centuries, including the Monroe Doctrine, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, the Panama Canal, and military ventures in Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Nicaragua. To maintain that all nations are equal, but that the United States is more equal than others is to encourage war.
Again, that has a lot to do with why NATO has made such an effort to aggravate Russia and the Hillary Clinton campaign worked so hard to make Americans feel as though the two nations were again at Cold War levels of disagreement. Without the threat of the kind of World War from which NATO grew, its existence as anything more than a vehicle for laundering defense dollars begins to seem exceedingly pointless.